ASK MBACTION – Flats, DH’ing, Carbon or Aluminum and Smelly Helmets


The MBA wrecking crew uses its combined expertise to address these questions and more every month here at “Ask MBA.” All you need to do is visit our website—— and click the “Ask MBA” tab. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the link to ask your question.


Q: Does anyone make a flat mountain bike shoe that comes in 2E or 4E? I have a hard time finding shoes that fit my wide foot. I also wear a small size (men’s 7 or 7.5), so finding a shop that carries my size to actually try on is impossible; the small- est stores carry is usually an 8. My last shoe was the Giro Jacket, which was way too narrow, and also the grip didn’t last long—pretty disappointed in the lifespan of them.

—Travis, who has clodhopper feet

A: Sidi makes shoes that are extra wide for those with big feet. However, they don’t make a shoe that will work with flat pedals all that well. All those who ride clipless pedals are set, but you may have a harder time finding a shoe that fits properly.

Five Ten makes plenty of shoes that, while not billed as “E-width,” may still work for you. Their original Freerider shoe has worked well for our big-and-tall test riders in the past. We suggest you give those a try. If they still don’t fit the bill, there are plenty of skate shoes out there that will certainly work with flat pedals just fine. In fact, before the invention of sticky-rubber flat-pedal shoes, that’s what all the flat-pedal riders used. They may not be as stiff and efficient, but they will certainly fit better.


Q: I am looking for a new downhill bike, and I am deciding between a Specialized Demo 8 Carbon and an Intense M16C Expert. I have looked over the specs and geometry, studied them to death and am having a tough time deciding. I know what I’m getting with a Demo, though there are some definite differences to my 2012. It seems like it’ll prefer to be glued to the ground even more than my current Demo.

—Rick, who wants to get rowdy on the descents

A: They’re both awesome bikes. You can’t really make a mistake. We’ve tested the Intense and Specialized, and they have very different personalities. The Intense is more plush and does a better job leveling obstacles on the trail. In our opinion it’s a faster bike for the racer crowd and also a bit more forgiving. The Specialized has a bit tighter geometry that’s more lively and playful on the trail, and more suited for a rider who wants to “flick” his way down rather than plow. Either way, you are getting an awesome and capable bike.


Q: I’ve heard that some aluminum frames are lighter and/or stronger than some carbon frames, thus notably reducing the cost. My Pivot Mach 429 is carbon, but I’m curious how aluminum would change the weight and durability in relationship to the price reduction.

—Jacob, who wants some answers

A: We once asked Chris Cocalis, the founder of Pivot, how he could build the lightest bike possible. He answered that he could, in fact, engineer and build an aluminum frame that would be lighter than any of his production carbon frames. However, it would not last long. To make an aluminum frame lighter than carbon, it would need to have extremely minimal- ist tubes that would not be durable for impacts, or even for the typical stresses of everyday riding. Bottom line: it would crack.

Carbon is a very lightweight material and allows designers to put the strength where they need it easily thanks to the molding process, which can shape the tubes any way the designer wants them shaped. Aluminum does not afford this same plasticity. That’s why all the lightweight bikes are built from carbon these days.


Q: Over the winter months a bird built a nest in my helmet. If I clean it out, would it still be safe to use? I’m afraid of parasites and things of that nature. Or, should I just get a new helmet?

—Dylan, who probably has a “flock of seagulls” hairstyle

A: That is not a question we’ve ever been asked before. Honestly, we’re not ornithologists, so we can’t comment on whether or not putting your head in a place where a bird has lived is safe or not. We can say that if the helmet has been in the kind of conditions where a bird could nest in it, it could pose some risks. Our guess is that EPS foam can deteriorate easily from harsh conditions like direct sunlight, heat, moisture, etc. You could simply wash the helmet, but there would always be those two questions in the back of your mind about whether the helmet was safe, and also if you were contracting some new kind of bird flu via your helmet straps. Sorry to say, but we would have to recommend just going for the new-helmet route. If you’ve gotten a few seasons’ use out of your old lid, it’s probably time to upgrade anyway. Besides, the bird probably loves its new home. Go the eco-friendly route and let him have it.

Have a question for the MBA crew? You can send your brain busters to [email protected].

“Ask MBA” peeve of the month:

Tearing a hole in your favorite riding shorts on a stupid crash that could have easily been avoided.


Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.

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